Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ladyman Plays Balls

Thanet South Labour MP Dr Steve Ladyman is reportedly to write to Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families over Kent County Council’s recent announcement that it intends to retain both Chatham House grammar school and Clarendon House grammar school on their existing sites.

It is thought the county council was considering a merger as part of its strategy to deal with falling pupil numbers across Kent but that option was scrapped by the Conservative-led County Hall.

Kent Online reports taht Dr Ladyman said that the decision was politically motivated and had not been subject to any public consultation. He believes the council has yet to prove how its plans are viable.

“This decision was taken [by KCC] to get my Conservative parliamentary opponent of the hook and the national Conservative party off the hook,” he said.

He wanted the minister to “consider carefully” whether the government should give KCC grant money it wants to re-build and re-furbish the schools under the Building Schools for The Future, a government led programme.

“KCC’s announcement says everything about the Conservative authority’s desire to protect grammar schools and is nothing to do with improving education across the wider area. At the very least, KCC should be having a public consultation over this. I will be writing to the minister setting out what is going on and to say he should think very carefully,” the MP said.

The county council had failed to do its job properly by giving the public a say on its plans or by examining other options.

“They [KCC] have not done their job and the government should be telling them so. If a public consultation comes down in favour of keeping both, then fine - but I want everyone to be involved.”

KCC’s Conservative administration has denied its decision was political and said it wanted to end speculation about the fate of the two schools.

Ed: So what's wrong, if anything, with protecting our excellnet Grammar Schools in Thanet? I'm sure we'll have some interesting contribitions on this topic. Over to you Chris Wells?


James Maskell said...

Ladyman just hates Grammar Schools. Its well known that he is a supporter of the anti-Grammar School campaign. Name-dropping Laura Sandys in his comments clearly shows how concerned he is about his electoral prospects.

Regarding grant money, is he saying that Grammar Schools should not have the same access to that money that other schools have? Do we have a quote here?

Michael Child said...

As Steve Ladyman attended the Birkenhead Institute Boys Grammar School, before studying at Liverpool Polytechnic where he received a BSc in Applied Biology. Perhaps he has forgotten how he got where he is, should he answer the question? Quid agis medice?

Anonymous said...

Isn't is great to know that your own MP is trying to damage the local system which has been supported by the democratically elected County Council. I wonder how many other issues has he tried to scupper without us finding out. Just because things don't go his way he's prepared to sulk and throw his dolly out of the pram regardless of the damage that will cause. Sooner he goes the better.

Anonymous said...

Well spotted, Michael.

Just about everyone I’ve spoken to in and around my Ward said they wanted to retain the status quo with these two schools. The issue of choice of single sex education was also important to people.

Lesson 1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m glad the County Council recognised this.

Lesson 2. People’s actual wishes and opinions are of little interest to Labour

Balls attended a private fee-paying school, as did Tony Blair, and Alistair Darling is a public schoolboy (interestingly, the same school that Norman Lamont and Sir Nicholas attended). It didn’t (sadly) seem to do them too much harm, so why remove the choice from others to have their children educated in successful grammars?

Cllr Ewen Cameron

Anonymous said...

Rumour has it that KCC went out of its way to massage the demographic dip upwards to ensure funding went to Marlowe Academy (£20 million?) so what has Ladyman got to moan about? Silly me, we can fiddle figures if it affects Labour's Academies but not play iy straight if it concerns Grammars!

chris wells said...

It is sadly fairly typical of Thanet Labour to take the line 'when in doubt or lost the debate destroy'. I understand Dr Ladyman is not alone - a Labour County Councillor has written to the team in government responsible for this programme protesting decisions.

These are acts of ridicolous cowardice, trying to use personal pressure on colleagues rather than any proper channel to change minds. If they are in any way successful this will mark a new low in the perversion of reality that is New Labour politics. Dr Ladyman was educated in a grammar school, and then attended a polytechnic, on the then grant (no debt system). His government have destroyed free university education - now all their ministers have had their slice of it, and many, especially Dr Ladyman seem hell bent on destroying any sense of excellence within our school system.

I note their is no alternative offered, just wanton destruction. I note no information about the decision is requested - just mindless attack. I note the request for consultation - to retain the status quo? Dr Ladyman has said he is not keen on an election right now, clearly he does not fel any pressing need to consult the public on the status quo!!

The honest thing to do would be to submit and discuss a true alternative, and hear the reasons - not the blind prejudice trotted out by these socialist camp followers - but reasons why the best choice is what is before you.

I personally pushed hard for a resolution of the blight that has affected these schools through uncertainty about their future from the first day I sat in the cabinet job at Maidstone.

At no time did any labour politician show any urgency to settle these matters. These interventions are amongst the most shameful I have ever seen in local politics. To be accused of making decisions politically by someone who has no case, merely withering destruction would be laughable if it were not so serious for parents trying to make sensible decisions about their childrens future schooling right now.

Steve Ladyman has wilfully set out to undermine the security of 2 of our best local schools. It is no surprise, but it is truly shameful.

chris wells said...

For the record, I attended Gillingham comprehensive school in North Dorset, that got me a university place at the London School of Economics.

Perhaps the chip on Dr Ladymans shoulder is all about only getting to the polytechnic, in spite of the advantages of a grammar school education? Hmmmm I wonder?

Cllr David Green said...

Chris Wells usually has my respect, even when I disagree with his arguement, which I often do.
However, in this case, his comments are full of untruths, that he must be aware of.

Firstly, he claims that Labour has destroyed free University Education. Blatently untrue. University fees were introduced by Robert Jackson MP, then Conservative minister for higher education. Labour has been modifying and improving the package ever since, such that now, no one on low income pays fees and no one pays anything back until they are earning average wage or more.
I believe Chris if he says he has tried to resolve uncertainties. However these uncertainties were created entirely by his own administration, who consistently refused pleas from Ramsgate Labour County Councillors to consult the public over the future of all South Thanet Schools.
KCC Tories (before Chris) prefered to drip feed the changes, move Ellington, relocate Hereson into Ellington, refurbish Chatham and Clarendon, rather than consider secondary education as a whole.
Chris's second untruth is that no-one has raised these concerns befor; Dr Ladyman, Cllr Elizabeth Green and myself (evidenced on my blogsite) have all raised them.
The massive ammounts of funding from the Government into Thanet's schools are a once in a generation opportunity. Opportunity exists to create a school cluster on Pysons road that would share resources, preserve the ethos of each school, preserve single sex education opption for all that wanted it,facilitate free movement of pupils and staff between schools, would avoid the disaster of creating a new secondary school without a sixth form, and would avoid the massive disruption of trying to refurbish schools on their existing sites. No wonder Dr Ladyman wants the County Council to look again and this time consult properly.
It would be sad if Government has to force this on KCC, as the opportunity exists for massive benefit to all Thanet's children.

Michael Child said...

David, since I made my first comment I have discussed this matter with some of the members of our community who would be most affected by this change, the pupils of the towns two grammar schools, one of my own children is one, who has just moved from a local non grammar school to do A levels, so is in a position to have an up to date insight into both types of schools, much of this comment is as a result of these discussions.

While all schools should be good schools, unfortunately all pupils are not good pupils and that if we are to perform well within the international community our brighter children need to be able to study in an environment where all of the other pupils wish to study too. Many of the better teachers are not necessarily good at keeping discipline among students who do not wish to study, and were the option to teach in a grammar school not available they would probably leave teaching altogether. Many of the students who do not wish to study, are just not academically inclined and should have the option to be taught a trade instead of gcse’s

Anyway changing Ramsgate’s grammar schools is pretty much universally unpopular in the town, they are two of the few remaining government funded facilities that most of us are really proud of. The removal of the schools from the town centre is also a further step towards the town being just residential properties bars and restaurants, with all the associated social problems.

The phrase school cluster sounds like something out of 1984, we already have a shopping cluster and Steve himself has recently pointed out the traffic problems associated with the miracle that is Westwood Cross, I am wondering what sort of school or you were educated in and if it was situated in a town if you found the towns facilities, library, bookshop cafes ect. Useful?

This is more a case of the government forcing something we don’t want, you could ask them to leave Ramsgate alone for a bit, and go and look at Milton Keynes or somewhere more interesting.

Cllr David Green said...


I was educated in a boys only Grammar School in Northampton, very like Chatham House in a lot of ways. I parted company with most of my friends who went to secondary modern or technical schools.
My children were educated mainly in Oxford in a fully comprehensive school that took the whole population of the local area.
I accept that losing the Grammar schools from the centre of Ramsgate would be a major loss but so would losing the ability to create a school with the flexibility demanded by modern educational opportunities.
Secondary Modern schools with no sixth form and Grammar Schools with severe restrictions on the bredth of curriculem that can be offered are not the way forward

Michael Child said...

David, firstly let me say that I appreciate that you are prepared to comment on this contentious issue, I have noticed that when I have raised difficult issues in the past many other local councillors refrain from comment, even when directly asked.

The problem we have in our schools that is partly derived from the English class system, being that if you take an average mix of English secondary school children and teach them together, the ones who work hard and are academically gifted will be called swots or worse and there will be peer pressure to under achieve.

Those who are gifted with craft abilities, who in the old secondary modern system spent a lot of their time in workshops preparing for apprenticeships, now spend much of their education trying to achieve a to c grades in academic subjects in order to make the school statistic appear good.

Many children lacking achievable realistic targets unsurprisingly become disruptive, the bottom line here is that while a good plumber, bricklayer, sewing machinist etc. may be greatly in demand they are not afforded the same social accord in our society as a teacher or historian, it is in fact prejudice so deeply engrained in our society that we don't notice it much.

When I worked in engineering, I worked for a time for Cincinnatis an American firm where this type of prejudice just didn’t exist, it was an illuminating experience, however here it does, it won’t go away so we have to do the best we can in the circumstances.

I am afraid here two factors should be most pressing, the views of the pupils and teachers, and the primary objective of education being to produce the best results from the material available.

One should remember that assuming pupils go on to a life of mostly full time employment, their state education will be one of the most expensive things they buy in their lives, regardless of what, if any beneficial affects they derived from it, so do ask some of them what they think.

DrMoores said...

I think Michael has hit the nail on the head here. From personal experience, as a child growing up in Thanet and as a one-time teacher, it's my experience that the entrenched class system, which promotes under-achievement like a badge of honour, is the greater part of the problem our society faces. Having also been educated at a university in the United States in the 70s and also having taught High-school there, I didn't see the same problems.

Personally, I blame the malign influence of the BBC for the downward spiral, particularly in regard to the decline of received English, - the gold standard in expression - the value of education and broader aspiration. You only have to watch East Enders!

Nethercourt said...

You only have to watch East Enders!????

Ye Gods!! I'd sooner have a leg off!!

Anonymous said...

Some very good points about what a sad loss the two grammar schools would be to Ramsgate. Let's not forget they would be a huge loss to the whole of Thanet as many youngsters from Birchington, Westgate, Broadstairs have all ended up there at one time or another.

I cannot help but feel that education as a whole is always based on the lowest common denominator rather than the highest. Why can't we revert to a system which celebrates offering kids the chance to learn in environments best suited to their abilities - possibly by selection at primary age?

In years past we had the academically inclined youngsters going to grammar schools, more practical ones to secondary modern and technical schools. These days we could add in sport and arts specialisms too - already happening in fact.

Yes, there would be massive changes in infrastructure required and it wouldn't be an overnight job. Long term there would hopefully be a broader, home grown range of skills available in the employment skills pool - perhaps ending shortages of bricklayers, engineers and plumbers (my son is one of the latter and at just 21 has been on the property ladder for the past year - so nothing wrong with that line of work if you put the hours in!).

By tapping in to youngsters abilities earlier, perhaps we might have fewer of them on the streets causing trouble or procreating another generation of useless yobs somewhere.

Another point that has been missed in this debate altogether is that falling school numbers surely enable schools to have smaller classes? For the first time in years classes, which have often been around the 25-30 mark, can be reduced to below 20 perhaps? You don't have to be a genius to know that smaller classes lead to greater academic achievement too. That way, more teachers can stay in work, class discipline can improve and kids get better educated - whatever their background. It will cost money but hey, should the younger Thanet population start rising again there will at least be an infrastructure of school buildings already in place to handle that influx. What's the betting in five years time when the 1,100 houses at Westwood have been built, with others no doubt (outline planning permission to build hundreds more homes by Minster Road, Westgate, has existed for some years now), there will be someone saying that more school places are desperately needed?

Nick, Whitstable

chris wells said...


On the doorsteps during the election campaign of 2001 the main complaint to Labour candidates on the doorstep was the introduction of university tuition fees> Tony Blair hinself commented the level of hostility over the scrapping of maintenence grants and the introduction of tuition fees surprised him.

As this had been one of the early major decisions of his first administration, he promised to look for a better way of combining state funding and student contributions - a plan that was to culminate in the higher fees we have today.

Dearing reported in JUly 1997 and was introduced as fees by the labour government.

The previous Tory administration may have reduced index linking for grants and introduced top up loans, but it was the labour government that started, and has increased the level of, tuition fees - the end of free university education in the UK.

No local, or national Labour politician has formally contacted me about these decisions through any proper channel - yes there has been website wittering and press releases but no alternative approach or plan presented.

Bring it on and I will shoot it down - I presume thats the fear.

Get off - and get Dr Ladyman off - his out dated hobby horse against excellence in education, as your own government did some years ago, killing off the concept of the one size fits all comprehensive, and selecting by aptitude (not ability, please define the difference), postcode, and now, bizarrely lottery as it wriggles and twists determined to not admit what is obvious to the rest of us: the comprehensive experiment has comprehensively failed.

I am delighted to see you choose this battleground, it will destroy what little credibility local labour has left. Go for it guys, like the decline and fall of the Roman Empire your self delusion is total and rotten to the core.

the naked lady sleeps at dawn said...

Firstly I would like to say that I myself have been educated in a High School and also in a grammar school sixth form, so I am speaking from experience of both sides that are being discussed. I have mixed feelings about the discussions about the Grammar Schools and bringing together Hereson and Ellington but hopefully I will bring forward comments in which you may not of considered within your debate as I can see that it seems to be one sided.
I feel that the advantage of having the grammar schools is that there is a divide from those who are wanting to learn/ who are gifted and want to exceed to their full potential, from those who can’t be bothered or who have difficulty with the whole learning process . Although, the whole situation with regards to the entrance to Grammar schools (the 11+) is putting pressure on children at a reasonably young age which maybe the reason for depression/ mental problems in later years in life. If you fail then you are a failure and these children may take this two ways: self fulfil to their new label and think ‘I’m a failure so what’s the point of trying’, or exceed this label to try and prove this label wrong. Either way these children who want to learn are chucked into a high school with those ‘can’t be bothered’ children, who disrupt the classes, hindering the opportunities to exceed the label.
Also there has been evidence that the 11+ is middle classed based, asking questions that someone who has the money for their child to be tutored and have access to equipment/resources (middle class people) would be able to answer. So this means that there is the divide between classes: the middle class= grammar school, lower classes= high school. It is in very rare cases that this is not true, middle classed children are put into high schools and visa versa. This may not be so much to do with class anymore but it still is the battle of the bigger wallet. Parallel with this, a child whose parents haven’t been to university (usually working class) may not be accepted into a better quality university such as Cambridge and Oxford, which I feel is diabolical as if a child put in the effort to exceed why should it be hindered by their background and personal life style.
The whole situation on the merging of Hereson School and Ellington has its pros and cons. The supposed advantage is that girls mature earlier than boys and that putting them together will influence the boys to mature to the level of the girls, creating better achievement. But will it? There could be a reverse effect causing the girls to de mature. Also will this actually work (the influence)? Stereotypical socialisation of young children is that FOR GIRLS “ boys are stupid” and FOR BOYS “girls smell”. This prevents boys and girls interacting with the opposite sex (until mid teens) creating division between the sexes. Boys don’t want to be associated WITH girls and visa versa. This avoidance between the sexes may prevent the influence occurring.
Also when the males and females hit the certain age in which the opposite sex are seen as sexual beings, this may cause distraction to the academic achievement if they are exposed to them on a regular bases. This could have a very frightful impact on the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and infections and teenage pregnancy within society ( although this has occurred without the mix of Hereson and Ellington). To prevent this, more time would be needed in educating them in sexual education ( the art of safe sex) decreasing time spent on the academic subjects like maths and English etc.

To conclude I would also like to add that teenage delinquency should not be blamed solely on the media. To say that Eastenders is the cause of illiterate youths is wrong as your saying that we as humans, when exposed to certain content, absorb this and act accordingly which would also be the theory from the hyperdermic syringe model.Saying this, you are claiming that we are all docile and have no free will into what we are exposed to. The fact that Eastenders portrays ‘common’ norms and values with the cockney lingo doesn’t mean that all that watch it act like phil Mitchell and dress like Kat Slater.
I believe that the old generation have created this monstrosity of teenage cults such as Chavs and have just stood by and let their behaviour be accepted as the norm, and nothing has been done to prevent this. More time and money should be spent on changing the increasing minority of young juvenile’s behaviour and attitudes. These poor wretched souls need more entertainment and things to do to prevent them from roaming the streets and participating in deviant/ criminal acts such as drinking. These adolescences get bored between the ages of 13-18 as they are too old to play down the park and too young to go clubbing and pubbing, so drifting into deviant/ criminal acts ( Matza’s drift theory) like antisocial behaviour and take drugs to keep themselves occupied. I’m glad to see that there are social clubs like the juice bar for under 18s but there need to be more, it’ll get those children off the streets. I would like to add about the poor control in and around the town centres. When walking around Ramsgate yesterday night, I encountered many teenage gangs who were participating in illegal acts such as intoxicating themselves with alcohol and causing riots, but where were the police?


DrMoores said...

Thank you for that very thought provoking and interesting analysis of the challenge

Michael Child said...

Naked Lady’s comments beg some very important questions related to the way we are treating our youth, we have, because of our attitude to teenagers, developed an underclass that is putting downward peer pressure on our youth.
We seem to have lost the way when it comes to underage pregnancy, where often the teenagers parents were also teenage parents, making illegal something that a large group of the population has always done and will always continue to do merely makes the problem pretty much insoluble. I have pointed out before that were our most famous lovers Romeo and Juliet alive today Romeo would be a sex offender.
It would seem pretty obvious that single sex schools are greatly beneficial to some students, and that what is good for the grammar schools, should be good for Ellington and Hereson, which incidentally if you look at their results are both very good and improving schools.
What is very obvious though is that before tinkering with Ramsgate’s schools we need much more debate, most especially including the views of students and teachers.
"under full light reules and naked wordes in Englissh, for Latyn canst thou yit but small.” Chaucer. A Treatise on the Astrolabe (1391).

Spiller said...

Hello to all,
You have all made some good points! Why are you arguing when you should be devising the best possible educational policy for all of the children in Thanet? I have no doubt that there are some who want to learn and some that don't. The reasons for this are vast and varied but these should be being addressed rather than being used as an excuse to let these youngsters down.
Many people who "fail" their 11+ tend to see this as the bookmark of their life...This is unacceptable. 10 - 18 year olds are still developing and this is a time when NOBODY needs to or should feel like a failure. This causes low aspirations. so why, why carry it on???? (80% of children in Thanet "fail", maybe this is why our Isle needs assistance from the EU!! Low aspirations cause high deprivation in a local area!) There is always a better way. Stop making children suffer for their parents low income or their parents inability to encourage and assist or the fact that they need more time spent with them by their teacher !
Now I know there are some elected councillors on here and you have been elected by some of these "failures" so do something about it...Stop making excuses and do right by all!!!! The current LEA has failed 80% of Thanets children and continues to do so...Please stop and listen and re think your whole educational policy!

chris wells said...


Our selective system delivered better average results at GCSE than the national comprehensive system. How does that constitute failing 80% of children?

Your assumption that the 11 plus ends ability to be flexible in schooling is false. Some of the best A level results in our area come from young people who tranfer from high schools to 6th forms at 16. We recognise differential development better than most.

This argument always ends up about what life was like in school inthe 1950's. It just aint like that anymore!

Recent figures also show that we spend more money per head in Thanet HIgh Schools than grammars - another Ladyman myth dispelled.